Monday, June 11, 2007

Patzcuaro by Train

Through Mexico by Train

By Barbara Belejack; based in Mexico City.
Published: December 2, 1990

BY all accounts the golden age of the Mexican railway was a split second about 40 years go, when everything was new and crisp -- from the crease in the porter's gray trousers to the tablecloths in the elegant dining cars. It was a time when clocks in the capital could be set to the whistles of departing trains, and a ticket on an overnight train guaranteed what the journalist Guillermo Garcia Oropeza described as the closest you can come to "an epic experience."

Today Mexican trains run on a combination of nostalgia and the promise that somehow, someday, the ambitious series of six-year plans that every administration dutifully produces will make a difference in passenger service. Although the golden age has come and gone, you can do far worse than to set your watch to and catch a ride on the Division del Norte as it pulls out of Mexico City's Buenavista Station at precisely 8 P.M., en route to Ciudad Juarez -- 1,230 miles and 36 hours away.

Since 1986 the Mexican Government has been attempting to reorganize and improve its long-distance passenger service. The Division del Norte is the most recent addition to the Servicio de Estrella (Star Service) trains of Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico (F.N.M.), the Government-operated railway. The inauguration of Star Service trains featuring renovated vintage American Pullman sleeping cars coincided with years of economic crisis. Not surprisingly, train travel has increased in popularity with middle-class passengers who otherwise would have opted for a plane ticket for a weekend getaway.

In addition to the Division del Norte, the current lineup of overnight sleepers includes service to Guadalajara (on Tapatio), Morelia, Patzcuaro and Uruapan in the state of Michoacan (Purepecha), Oaxaca (Oaxaqueno), Veracruz (Jarocho) and Monterrey (Regiomontano), with continuing service to Nuevo Laredo and connecting service to Matamoros. These trains also feature new cars with reserved first-class reclining seats (primera especial).
Full 1990 New York Times Article
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Patzcuaro is the ex-capital of Michoacan and before that was Tzintzuntzan, a small town nearby dating to the Purhépecha empire in the 1300's. The museum in Patzcuaro is finding ruins in it's back yard that predates history and they are believed to be earlier than the history of Tzintzuntzan. The Purhépecha were one of the indigenous tribes that were not conquered by the Aztecs

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